How Church Has Changed Since You Last Visited

Doug Bender

November 10, 2022 | 3 minute read

My friends, Brian and Tiffany, decided to return to church. They grew up going with their parents, but then college came. Then careers. And marriage. Once they had their second child, they felt the pull to return to church. They realized that it had been up to 10 years since they went, and they desired to give their children the same spiritual upbringing they had. But how has church changed since they last visited? With life after the pandemic, you may be asking yourself the same question. Many are venturing back to church in person rather than remain online. So we identified the top five things you can expect when going to a local church that might differ from the last time you went.

Livestream Church Services 

Like many people, Brian and Tiffany visited a couple of churches by attending their online services first. Most churches have streaming options with the pandemic accelerating this trend. When evaluating a church, ask yourself how they connect people and build communities, whether in-person or online. This preference also depends on what you're looking for in a long-term church. 

New Music

At times, it may be daunting to visit a church and worship to a song you may not be familiar with. Plenty of churches still use traditional organs and hymnals, but guitars and PowerPoint slides are much more common nowadays. Typically, your favorite streaming church service will likely play a "top Christian worship" song that will also play on a Christian station. Brian and Tiffany still didn't know most of the songs they heard when they visited their first church. What helped them prepare was watching the worship online to see if they would know the songs in person. This research may help you feel more familiar when going in person. 

More Casual Attire

People still tend to dress up a bit nicer when attending church, but not as formally as they used to. Back in the day, business or business casual was the norm. Now, most people dress like they are about to go to a sit-down restaurant. You're wearing your nice pair of jeans and favorite top – not a suit, tie or dress. But this is not true for every church. Your best bet is to watch a service online, look at the worship team or members' wear and match the attire. Friendly tip: The pastor usually dresses a half-step up from the members, so don't feel you need to match what they are wearing. 

New Security Measures

If you bring kids with you when you visit a church, you'll likely be surprised at the new check-in process. Most churches require background checks for all volunteers working with children and restrict access to the children's department to only those screened individuals. Most appreciate the extra layer of security, but this means you also can't just stick your head in and check on the kids quite as easily. 

Small Groups in Homes

Churches have had Bible studies or Sunday School classes for years. Historically, small groups were the only form of church gatherings for centuries. But you're much more likely now than ever to find these meetings taking place in coffee shops, community centers and homes. In fact, if you have a friend who goes to church, then there's a good chance they belong to one of these home- or community-based life groups. For many, small groups provide a glimpse into the church culture. This less formal and more relationally-focused approach to church is another offering that you can visit. For example, Brian met a group of men at a local restaurant for a Bible study. From there, he connected with a small group of young families that meet on Saturdays. While Brian and Tiffany now also attend the Sunday service occasionally, they found their needs met in the small group format. They actually view their small group as their primary church community. If you have a connection to someone in a small group, consider asking them if you could visit. 

Whether you are considering visiting a church for your children or growing in your faith, expect something different from the last time you visited. And, yes, you'll likely still have some of the same jittery feelings that Brian and Tiffany experienced on their first (or even second) visit. But find comfort in knowing that most churches are full of people trying their best to make you feel welcome. They are trying to do it as less awkwardly as possible, and they are really happy to see you! So take my advice: look for someone with a nametag, and they will be glad to show you around and get you connected.

Doug Bender

Doug Bender

Doug Bender is an I Am Second writer and small groups coach. He developed many of the small group tools found at and has coached churches, organizations, and individuals to use I Am Second groups to share the message of Jesus with their friends and family. He also works with I Am Second's parent organization, e3 Partners, as a church planter and pastor in countries such as Ethiopia, Colombia, and the US. Doug and his wife, Catherine, have four children: Bethany, Samuel, Isabella, and Jesse.

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